I absolutely adore movie scores with ethereal overtones and films that are filled to the brim with intense action and drama. Add to this recipe, a generous serving of a romance that delves deep into the charm and mystique of the age of faes, dragons, and damsels in distress, and the flutter of butterfly wings in my tummy begins to set me swooning. Since first spotting the teaser trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman in early Fall of 2011, I had been impatiently twirling my thumbs in anticipation of seeing what was being trumped up as an epic, must-see summer blockbuster.
With a tingle in my fingertips, and while floating on pads of fresh spring air, I was one of the first patrons to walk through the door of my local movie house on Friday morning for the early bird matinee showing of Snow White and the Huntsman. Snacks in hand, eyes wide, and lips poised to smile with enchanted glee as my mind swam through the scenes about to roll before me on the mega screen. I wonder if you can imagine my surprise when, about fifteen minutes into the film, I realized I was not enjoying myself at all. With a running time just shy of two more hours remaining, I started trying to coach myself into falling in love with this revamp of the classic love story of maiden and hero…But the sparks never ignited, at least, not for me.
A mildly paced plot became a scenario where there was never a rush of thrills and action. No matter how hard I tried to force an excited fever to flare up or how long I waited for my pulse to finally start to peculate, each scene seemed to just fold over into the following one. Overall, this cinematic adventure was a very casual one, moving at a knee-jerk speed, with no real surprises or tense minutes of knuckle crunching uncertainty about what would happen in the next few heart-pounding seconds. No dire or riveting situation kept my eyes glued to the over-sized screen. At some point, I think while Snow White and one of her devoted dwarves were dancing by the fire, and when the Huntsman and the other feisty group of ex-miners were chugging away with wineskins tipped up to their lips, my thoughts might have even wondered off-center to mentally double-check an afternoon to-do list.
At the end, as the masses were pouring from their seats, I felt a heavy wave of guilt wash away my disappointment in the movie I had just sulked through. A quick look around revealed a crowd full of jubilant and pleased faces. I was probably one of three people, total, who did not enjoy what I would tag as a lackluster adventure. ‘I loved it’, one woman cooed. ‘I know, me too, I’m going to go in that theater over there and try to watch it again,” her friend quickly replied. I began to wonder if I should buy another ticket for the next show time so I could find out what I had missed and what they had obviously seen. ‘Who do you think she fell in love with?’, a third lady asked her companions. And then, after overhearing that last question, it finally started to dawn on me why this version of ‘Snow White’ didn’t live up to my expectations.
Mash-ups and Flashbacks: If you’re a movie enthusiast and have the show times page of your closest theater saved as a favorite on your browser (I have no shame in admitting I have just described myself), less than thirty minutes after the opening sequences of Snow White push by, you may quickly start to get the overwhelming sense of being bounced back and forth between key themes already presented in films from similar genres. In particular, the dark mood, enchanted heroics, and some of the witty banter of the movies based on Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ series weave in and out of the plot of Snow White and the Huntsman. One pivotal scene involving our leading lady, when a mythical forest creature bestows a blessing of divine destiny upon the lovely, dark-haired Snow White, played by Kristen Stewart, seemed to be paying a subtle homage to the mystically events embedded within the pages of C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe’. If you are a fan of Twilight, I don’t think I need to mention that you will have more than a few flashbacks from that movie trilogy, especially whenever Stewart flashes her signature Bella-glare of longing and adoration at her somewhat slobbish rescuer, the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth). I do give her credit, she seems to have tried to do her absolute best to avoid slipping back into re-enacting the same emotions expressed when she portrays Bella Swan, aspiring vamp bride; yet, there are definite slip-ups when the actress reverts back into that character. Most likely these slips are accidental, caused by playing one role so indepthly for so many years.
Missing Dialogue?: To be honest, the lack of enthusiastic and heartfelt wordplay between the main characters, particularly within the strained relationship of the princess and the commoner, was the real drag of Snow White and the Huntsman. During the movie, I could never decide whether this absence of verbal play was due to severe editing of the final product or to purposefully set a mood where the viewer was supposed to feel free to interpret specific emotions from quick eyebrow movements and partial smiles exchanged between the huntsman and his troublesome lady. Even more surprising to me, the namesake of this summer flick, Snow White, barely spoke for more than a minute or two at a time. However, there was a lot of talking about her…How beautiful she was…She would be the light and inspiration to overcome their plight…Her spirit would save them all…Admittedly, I loved hearing all of this praise spoken for our determined princess; nevertheless, it grieved me that the sum of her accomplishments were a scream to fight off a troll, splashing triumphantly on horseback through the swelling ocean tide, exactly one rousing motivational speech, and defeating her main foe in a half-hearted fighting sequences. The tally seems high, but when spread out over a two hour film, they never really pulled together tightly enough to convince me of her supernatural nobility. From the way she was being described with whispered prophecies of adoration, I suppose I kept expecting her skin to start glowing or for her hair to begin sparkling in the sunshine, or for the redeemed princess to revive the black forest to triumphant beauty with one clap of her slim palms…but none of those wishes were granted for me.
Silent Ending and a Prelude to a Sequel: If you don’t want a major spoiler..Read no further. Don’t expect Snow White to ride off with the prince (in this case, the duke’s handsome son, William (Sam Claflin)) or the burly huntsman (Did I forget to mention that he is referred to as ‘Huntsman’ for a majority of the film? If Hemsworth’s character has a real name, it must have been spoken only once or not frequently enough for me to catch it). There is no fairy tale wedding before the closing credits, and no pairing of king and queen to rule together forever in the happily ever after. Although, Snow White does receive her epic kiss (actually two, but only the second revives her from the grips of death), yet she never reveals to the true hero that it was his slightly drunken confession of love that awakened her. At the very end, when the golden crown is placed upon her raven hair, Snow White looks disturbed as she surveys the large throng of her subjects. When she finally spots her huntsman hovering at the extreme edge of the crowd (at that point, I was leaning forward in my seat and hoping for a declaration of peace across the land, a proclamation of how his brooding love brought her back to life, and her eternal pledge of devotion to him for doing so); the audience is presented with…nothing…our dear Snow White is silent once more. As the newly crowned queen follows the outline of her reluctant hero hovering in the rear, a hint of glee and relief warm her cheeks. Nearby, a look of sullen dejection covers William’s face, while a glimmer of joy circle within the huntsman’s eyes…And then the doors to the palace court close…Yes! The movie ends with none of the main characters uttering a word to help the audience sort out their fates. It is my guess that there is a reason why Stewart’s character ends up standing in the middle of a love triangle..again. Is it possible this film was meant to test the water for the makings of a sequel? I have my mind made up, but you can be the judge once you view the movie for yourself.
The Mark: All in all, Snow White and the Huntsman was a slow-paced, yet entertaining, Saturday movie. The sparse laughs and handful of intense action sequences managed to carry the entire film a tiny stroke past the two and a half star mark. Until I watched this movie, I honestly never understood when a reviewer made comments regarding how a book or film missed the mark, the elusive moment of euphoric viewer (or reader) satisfaction. That was the sentiment I was hoping to take away from Snow White and the Huntsman, however, the overall effect of this movie did not quite capture that feeling for me. Perhaps my standards are set entirely too high, or maybe my giddy anticipation overwhelmed the product I wanted to enjoy so much…or perhaps a little more tweaking on the side of the screenwriters and producers would have actually presented the epic film I was charmed into believing this movie would be.
The biggest nod goes to Charlize Theron (Ravenna) for playing the best evil (borderline psychotic) queen I have ever seen in any modern day adaptation of these fantasy classics.
A fter swatting away the dazzle of box office mania, I have floated back down to reality and am steadily getting over my initial disappointment. When Snow White makes its DVD / Blu Ray appearance, I will most likely be first in line to watch it all over again. I’m sure I will enjoy this romantic adventure much more on a second go-round…where I can do my own personal editing with the rewind and fast-forward buttons.
What about you? What was your first impression of Snow White and the Huntsman?